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All About Eve: Fox Studio Classics

The winner of six Academy Awards (and nominated for a record 14), writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's 1950 All About Eve has become one of the jewels of Hollywood's Golden Age. Bette Davis stars as Margo Channing, a temperamental star of the American stage who is seized with doubt over her future prospects as an aging actress, as well as her relationship with the younger Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill). But she lets her guard down when she is introduced to an innocent young ingenue, Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter), who soon works her way into the Channing household as the older woman's assistant and then proceeds to seduce, deceive, or blackmail everyone she meets in an attempt to unseat Channing as the queen of the American theater. Despite the boundless praise that All About Eve has garnered over the years, Mankiewicz really had just two things going for him here — a solid ensemble cast that tackles their parts with enormous skill, and a script filled with both witty banter and harsh recriminations. Thelma Ritter, as the outspoken Birdie, one of Channing's closest advisors, shows why she was one of the choice supporting actresses of the era (she would perform a similar role a few years later in Hitchcock's Rear Window), and Marilyn Monroe, in one of her first film appearances, plays the airy platinum blonde to perfection. But George Sanders, as smooth-talking theater journalist Addison De Witt, dominates the proceedings, illustrating how the most charming people in show business can also be the most predatory (is it any wonder he was asked to voice the role of Shere Khan in Disney's Jungle Book?). Fox's second DVD release of All About Eve, part of the "Fox Studio Classics" imprint, is a vast improvement over the first disc, which was released early in the format's history and offered a substandard print. Thankfully, a full print restoration of Eve was undertaken from a fine-grain master, and the audio was given some digital restoration. The results are stunning, offering a clean, crisp, image with strong low-contrast details and barely any hint of collateral wear. What's more, that previous disc didn't have any supplements, whereas this time around DVD fans have been treated to several. Two commentaries are on board, one with edited comments from actress Celeste Holm, the director's son Christopher Mankiewicz, and biographer Ken Geist, while the second track is a solo effort from film historian Sam Staggs, who dishes some dirt on the movie's production history. Also here is an AMC "Backstory" feature (24 min.) with more production gossip (let's just say that Davis and Holm did not get along), two archive promo spots with Davis and Baxter, four newsreels, the theatrical trailer, and an impressive restoration demonstration. Keep-case.
—JJB



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